The reliability dimension is dependent on the availability of the web site or, in other words, how easy it is to connect to the web site as a user. Many companies fail to achieve 100% availability and potential customers may be lost for ever, if they attempt to use the site when it is unavailable.

Reliability of e-mail response is also a key issue, Chaffey and Edgar (2000) reported on a survey of 361 UK web sites across different sectors. Of those in the sample, 331 (or 92 per cent) were accessible at the time of the survey and, of these, 299 provided an e-mail contact point. E-mail enquiries were sent to all of these 299 web sites; of these, 9 unde-liverable mail messages were received. It can be seen that at the time of the survey, service availability was certainly not universal. Surprisingly, more recent surveys suggest some improvement, but still indicate a poor quality of service overall. Transversal (2005), the provider of the MetaFAQ software to answer customers' responses online found the following reliability of response:

• Average number of questions answered:

- Telecoms 1 out of 10

- Average all companies 2.1 out of 10

• Percentage of companies that responded to e-mail:

- Travel 40 per cent

- Telecoms 70 per cent

- Average 56 per cent

• Average e-mail response time:

- Travel 42 hours

- Telecoms 32 hours

- Average 33 hours.

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